This column might get me in a little trouble. But that’s all right. What is it that Austin Powers said – “Danger is my middle name”?
Well, maybe not that risky.
As a realtor, I am a member of the National Association of Realtors – the largest trade organization in the U.S., with more than one million members. And I am also a member of the state and local realtor associations. Every realtor is (which separates us from those who just have a state real estate license).
The Preamble to the Realtor Code of Ethics states that “the interests of the nation and its citizens require,” among other things, “the preservation of a healthful environment,” and that these interests “impose grave social responsibility and a patriotic duty” upon realtors. (In other words, at our best, it’s about a whole lot more than just getting paid.)
Realtors are generally active in the communities in which they live and work, and that interest and activism extends into the political process. We pay very close attention to government issues that affect our fellow realtors and the society at large. When it comes to taxes, development, zoning regulation, and property rights, you can be sure that realtors have a position and work within the process to have our voices heard. And of course that includes endorsements and campaign contributions to elected officials and candidates who are supportive of our perspectives.
Well, as you know, it’s an election year. And so the realtors will be speaking with determination, endorsing candidates and directing resources, including financial resources, accordingly.
I read something a few days ago that I want to throw down as a challenge, both for realtors and for those who know and have contact with us (meaning basically everybody). In essence I am seeking to amplify a point made by an important observer and reporter on our business, driven by recent events.
Locally we are all aware of the tragedy a few weeks ago in Parkland. A community and nation are heartbroken by events in a place of learning, where safety should be assumed.
Now, as realtors we really cannot get into discussions of relative merits of one specific neighborhood or location versus another on certain metrics. We can point clients and customers to the appropriate sources, but cannot do what is referred to as “steering.” And certainly I don’t counsel that.
But I believe there are superordinate issues that cut across all neighborhoods, all locations – quality of life and lifestyle – for which Realtors can and must take a stand, beyond tax rates, trust fund allocations, or particular zoning rules. Of course we need to watch the traditional measures, while also understanding that there is more we can and should do.
I think realtors can and should be at the table and part of the discussion when it comes to matters of gun safety and the security of our public places. And I think, further, it would be entirely on point for us to ask politicians – particularly at the Federal and state level – for their constructive insights on that topic, in advance of endorsement decisions.
And I would even go beyond that. Consider that more people in the U.S. now die of opiate overdoses than from gun violence. Entire counties, regions of states, are being decimated by this scourge. We must insist that politicians go beyond the “boilerplate” on this also.
And finally – what responsibility do we have as realtors to ensure that our communities are open and welcoming to all people? In the past, realtors have offered endorsements and political contributions to politicians who, arguably, have taken hostile and negative positions legislatively on issues that directly affect certain members of our communities – including the LGBT community. Should the fact that such candidates are pro-development and have a good tax plan offset the pain and damage that some of their other votes and positions cause to others?
At our best, realtors are here to change people’s lives for the better – to make their dreams come true. Improving the overall quality of life – for everyone – needs to be a part of that equation. We have a tremendous – and oft-overlooked – opportunity to do that.
James Oaksun, Florida's Real Estate Geek(SM), is Broker-Owner of New Realty Concepts in Oakland Park. In addition to having degrees from Dartmouth and Cornell, he is a Graduate of the Realtor Institute (GRI).